Albert the Alleycat Used to Deliver the Weather on Channel 6 (2024)

Albert the Alleycat Used to Deliver the Weather on Channel 6 (1)

Albert the Alleycat; Photo courtesy of Fox 6

Do you remember Albert the Alleycat?

BY Jim Cryns

Albert the Alley Cat first took to the Milwaukee airwaves in 1965 on WITI TV6 newscasts, becoming the city’s first feline puppet to deliver a portion of the weather segment on the news, alongside Ward Allen, the human weather guy.

It was a simpler era. The pace of life was slower. The collective Milwaukee population and leaders were still recovering from WWII. It was a time when Lawrence Welk and Liberace were in vogue. Sure, a puppet on the news was silly, but it was silly in a uniquely Milwaukee way. This sock puppet is widely remembered and loved to this day.

If you’re from Milwaukee you probably consider it a pleasant and quaint memory from your childhood. If you’re not, it could be viewed as something hokey, even cringe-worthy.

Albert the Alleycat Used to Deliver the Weather on Channel 6 (2)

The cranky cat with an accent resembling a Brooklyn cab driver, was the creation of Jack DuBlon. He originally got his start in TV in Texas, with a 1956 show called Cartoon Alley, a children’s program. He made his own puppets and the very first one he crafted was Albert. DuBlon moved to Milwaukee in 1960, hired by TV6 to be their staff announcer. DuBlon also played Dr. Cadaverino. TV6 tagged him as the (world’s ugliest movie host) with Nightmare Theater, which ran from 1964 through 1977.

Albert was paired with weatherman Ward Allen, who was not a professionally trained meteorologist. After working together on-air for three years they became the cat’s-meow of the industry when they were picked by The National Association of Television Program Executives as the top weather team in the country in 1968. Albert and Allen were very popular with kids around Milwaukee, visiting the schools and giving weather talks. The puppet cat was on fire.

Albert was a legitimate hit. Viewers sent him hundreds of custom-knit sweaters, which he would wear on-the-air. His appeal was contagious. If kids were playing and their mother called out to tell them Albert was on the tube, they’d drop what they were doing and rush to the television.

He was the king of malapropos. Albert would ‘humidery’ instead of humidity. Substitute ‘sad*stics,’ for statistics. The witticism flew above the heads of kids watching for sheer enjoyment. There was always time for a wisecrack or two.

Albert the Alleycat Used to Deliver the Weather on Channel 6 (4)

On one occasion Albert interviewed President Richard Nixon, quite a coup for a puppet with no formal journalistic training. Milwaukee companies quickly saw the appeal of the puppet and hired Albert and DuBlon to sell their products, and his image was made into memorabilia.

Meteorologist Tom Skilling, who retired recently from WGN in Chicago after 45 years with the station, was paired with Albert for a while at TV6 before he took the job in Chicago. Skilling said he would do the forecast and Albert would deliver the temperature, wind and barometer readings. Skilling wasn’t sure which direction the cat would take, and for how long. He didn’t like it when the gimmick messed with his weather segment.

The act began to become stale in the 1980s and the Reagan era when technology propelled weather reporting forward. Radar, and computer graphics were relied on to bedazzle viewers and were becoming the norm for every market in the country. The days for the puppet were numbered. Albert’s ninth life was nearing its end.

The station decided to take a consultant’s advice and retire Albert in 1981, the brass at TV6 decided that Albert was too much of a gimmick and was hurting their journalistic credibility.

Albert was cut from the weather segments of the news and transitioned to sports, giving the sports quiz for longtime sports-guy and former voice of the Milwaukee Braves, Earl Gillespie. That didn’t last as they pulled Albert from all newscasts by the end of the year. He became the stations’ “vice president for important things kids should know,” and host of the Saturday morning kids show ‘Albert and Friends.’ By that time, DuBlon was on his eighth Albert puppet, having worn the previous seven incarnations out.

The cat is gone. Puppets were replaced by gadgetry. We had Space Shuttles and cable television. The Greatest Generation was overrun by Yuppies. While the messenger may have changed, today’s computer graphics are the new crutch stations use to keep viewer attention through the forecast.

No kid today is going to drop what they’re doing and run to the television to see that.

Albert the Alleycat Used to Deliver the Weather on Channel 6 (2024)

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